Representative democracy relies on competitive elections to motivate government officials to respond to the interests and wishes of citizens. The reality today is that American legislative elections are not competitive. More than nine out of ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives are persistently re-elected. In 2004, only seven incumbents were defeated in 2004 and most (four) resulted from the Texas shenanigans. In 2006, only three dozen of the 435 House seats are likely to be competitive. Although redistricting is not the sole cause of weak competitiveness, it is a significant factor and one of the few that can be addressed by reform.
In addition to weakening the ability of voters to hold government officials accountable, weak competition also contributes to the high and rising political polarization in America. Because incumbents rarely have to worry about losing an election or facing a tight race, they are free to pursue the extreme positions favored by ideological activists and special interests.
The Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Humphrey School and the Law School at the University of Minnesota are organizing a conference to generate new analysis of redistricting that contributes to reform. The conference brings together leading scholars from political science, law, and non-academic think tanks with policy makers, journalists, and others interested in the state of American democracy to address the seminal issues of today's debate about redistricting. Presenters include lawyers involved in the Texas redistricting lawsuit, Tom Mann from the Brookings Institution, Bob Benenson from Congressional Quarterly, and leading observers of American politics.
Jacobs, Lawrence R..
Restoring Electoral Competition: Research and Remedies for Redistricting.
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